AskDefine | Define android

Dictionary Definition

android n : an automaton that resembles a human being [syn: humanoid, mechanical man]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Android



  1. Robot with a human form.

Derived terms


robot with human form


  1. Possessing human qualities.


possessing human qualities

Extensive Definition

An android is a robot designed to resemble a human, usually both in appearance and behavior. The word derives from the Greek andr-, meaning "man, male", and the suffix -eides, used to mean "of the species; alike" (from eidos "species"). Though the word derives from a gender-specific root, its usage in English is usually gender-neutral; the female counterpart, gynoid, is generally used only when female gender is a distinguishing trait of the robot. The term was first mentioned by Albertus Magnus in 1270 and was popularized by the French writer Villiers in his 1886 novel L'Ève future, although the term "android" appears in US patents as early as 1863 in reference to miniature humanlike toy automations.
Thus far, androids have largely remained within the domain of science fiction, frequently seen in film and television. However, some humanoid robots now exist. The word droid, a robot in the Star Wars universe, is derived from this meaning.

Android projects

As of August 2007, a handful of android projects have been successfully completed.

Japanese Projects

The world's first Android DER 01 was developed by Japanese Research Group. The Intelligent Robotics Lab directed by Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University and Kokoro Co., Ltd. have demonstrated the Actroid at Expo 2005 in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. And in 2006, Kokoro Co. developed new DER 2 android. Height of the human body part of "DER2" is 165cm. There are 47 mobile points. DER2 moves not only the expression but also hands and feet and can twist a body. "The air servosystem" which Kokoro Co. developed originally is used for the actuator. As a result of having controlled an actuator with air pressure via servosystem precisely, the movement is very fluent and noise is very small. "DER2" realized a slimmer body than a former version by using a smaller cylinder. Outwardly "DER2" becomes a more beautiful proportion. Compared to the previous model, DER2 has thinner arms and a wider repertoire of expressions. The smoothness of her movement has also been improved, making it now even more likely for the uninitiated to confuse her with an actual human being. Once programmed, she is able to choreograph her motions and gestures with her voice.
The Intelligent Mechatronics Lab directed by Kobayashi at The Science University of Tokyo has developed an android head called Saya, which was exhibited at Robodex 2002 in Yokohama, Japan. There are several other initiatives around the world involving humanoid research and development at this time, which will hopefully introduce a broader spectrum of realized technology in the near future. Now she is working at Science University of Tokyo as a guide.
The Waseda University(Japan) and NTT Docomo's manufacturers have succeeded in creating a shape-shifting robot WD-2. It is capable of changing its face. At first, the creators decided the position of the necessary points to express the outline, eyes, nose and so on of a certain person. The robot expresses his/her face by moving all points to the decided positions", they say. The first version of the robot was first developed back in 2003. After that, a year later, they did a couple of major improvements in the design. The robot features an elastic mask made from the average head dummy. It uses a driving system with a 3DOF unit. The WD-2 robot can change its facial features by activating specific facial points on a mask, with each point possessing three degrees of freedom. This one has 17 facial points, for a total of 56 degrees of freedom. As for the materials they used, the WD-2’s mask is fabricated with a highly elastic material called Septom, with bits of steel wool mixed in for added strength. Other technical features reveal a shaft is driven behind the mask at the desired facial point, driven by a DC motor with a simple pulley and a slide screw. Apparently, the researchers can also modify the shape of the mask based on actual human faces. To "copy" a face, they only need a 3D scanner to determine the locations of an individual’s 17 facial points. After that, they are then driven into position using a laptop and 56 motor control boards. In addition, the researchers also mention that the shifting robot can even display an individual’s hair style and skin color, if a photo of their face is projected onto the 3D mask.

Other Projects

KITECH researched & developed the EveR-1, an android interpersonal communications model capable of emulating human emotional expression via facial "musculature", and capable of rudimentary conversation having a ~400 word vocabulary. She is tall and weighs , matching the average figures of Korean women in their twenties. EveR-1's name derives from the Biblical Eve, plus the letter "r" for robot. EveR-1's advanced computing processing power enables Speech Recognition & Vocal Synthesis, at the same time processing Lip Synchronization and Visual Recoginition by 90 degrees Micro CCD Cameras with Face Recognition Technology. An independent micro chip inside her artificial brain handles Gesture Expressions, Body Coordination and Emotion Expressions. Her whole body is made of highly advanced synthetic jelly silicon and with 60 artificial joints in her face, neck, and lower body, she is able to demonstrate realistic facial expressions and sing, while simutanously dancing. In South Korea, the Ministry of Information and Communication hopes to put a robot in every home by as early as 2013, strictly for the purposes of clean, decorous, non-vulgar entertainment.
Hanson Robotics, Inc. of Texas and KAIST produced an android portrait of Albert Einstein, using Hanson's facial android technology mounted on KAIST's life-size walking bipedal robot body. This Einstein android, also called "Albert Hubo", thus represents the first full body walking android in history (see video at Hanson Robotics, the FedEx Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas at Arlington also developed the android portrait of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (creator of Blade Runner), with full conversational capabilities that incorporated thousands of pages of the author's. In 2005, the PKD android won a first place Artificial intelligence award from AAAI.
Project Aiko of Canada has created an android portrait as a female person, using B.R.A.I.N.S software (Biometric Robot Artificial Intelligence Neural System) with silicone body, they have created one of the most unusual androids. The android is called "Aiko", thus Aiko is the first android to mimic pain, and the ability to learn and avoid pain. In additional, Aiko has speech, voice, face, and object recognition. It can also solve math problems displayed to her visually. It is also capable of learning new information from the environment. It is hoped that Aiko can walk in the near future.

Usage and distinctions

Unlike the terms robot (a "mechanical" being) and cyborg (a being that is partly organic and partly mechanical), the word android has been used in literature and other media to denote several different kinds of artificially constructed beings:
  • a robot that closely resembles a human
  • an artificially or synthetically created, yet primarily organic, being that closely resembles a human. Also referred to in many series (mostly anime) as Bio Android
Although human morphology is not necessarily the ideal form for working robots, the fascination in developing robots that can mimic it can be found historically in the assimilation of two concepts: simulacra (devices that exhibit likeness) and automata (devices that have independence).
The term android was first used by the French author Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (1838-1889) in his work Tomorrow's Eve, featuring an artificial human-like robot named Hadaly. As said by the officer in the story, "In this age of Realien advancement, who knows what goes on in the mind of those responsible for these mechanical dolls."
Although Karel Čapek's robots in R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921)—the play that introduced the word "robot" to the world—were organic artificial humans, the word robot has come to primarily refer to mechanical humans, animals, and other beings. The term android can mean either one of these, while a cyborg ("cybernetic organism" or "bionic man") would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.
The word android is a combination of Ancient Greek andros and the suffix -oid, which literally means "in the form of a man." This could be contrasted with the more general term anthropoid, which means humanlike.


Historically, science fiction authors have used "android" in a greater diversity of ways than the terms "robot" and "cyborg". In some fiction works, the primary difference between a robot and android is only skin-deep, with androids being made to look almost exactly like humans on the outside, but with internal mechanics exactly the same as that of robots. In other stories, authors have defined android to indicate a wholly organic, yet artificial, creation. Other definitions of android fall somewhere in between.
The character Data, from the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, is described as an android. Data became intoxicated in an early episode ("The Naked Now") and is later referred to having "bioplast sheeting" for skin ("The Most Toys"), perhaps suggesting that he was initially intended by the writers to be at least partially organic. Otherwise, Data was shown to be mechanical throughout and this often became a central plot theme.
In the show "THE SAINT", Tyler is an android, or a robot with a human intellect. Tyler spends most of the series in fights with Mary, a normal human, and eventually team up to fight against the dark evil Vincent.
The character Rock/Mega Man, from the game series of the same name, is called a Humanoid in the instructions of the first game, and a robot thereafter. He is a member of a class of robots called Robot Masters, which have a certain degree of autonomy. At the end of Mega Man 7, he states that he is "more than just a robot". Mega Man's successor, Mega Man X, is specifically identified to be fully autonomous.
The Replicants from the movie Blade Runner were bioengineered organic beings. While they were not referred to as either robots or androids in the movie, the screenplay was originally based on a novel by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In this novel, the beings in question are specifically referred to as "androids" or, more familiarly, "andys". They were created to serve as slaves for humans in the aftermath of a nuclear war. The feature that most obviously distinguishes them from humans is their lack of empathy — otherwise, they are virtually indistinguishable from their organic counterparts (indeed, at one point a character observes that a psychotic human could be confused with an android).
In the video game Beneath a Steel Sky, genetically engineered androids similar to Blade Runner's Replicants are a central plot theme. However, despite their organic makeup, their behavior is programmed by computer.
The robots of Karel Čapek's R.U.R. were organic in nature. Today, an author writing a similar story might very well be inclined to call them androids.
The character Ash in the movie Alien, another artificial organic being, is often referred to as an android (though not in the dialogue of the movie itself). Similarly, the character Bishop in Aliens and Alien³ is a more advanced android commonly called a Synthetic, but prefers to be called an "artificial person". Much later in the series timeline, the character Call in Alien Resurrection is ashamed of being an android. Interesting to note is that the internal workings of the androids in the Alien universe seem almost human like. They have a white liquid, analogous for blood, probably for hydraulic movement. They also seem to have "guts" as seen in Aliens.
In the Star Wars movies, C-3PO, R2-D2, and other robots are referred to as "droids". While C-3PO could reasonably be called an android because he is humanoid in appearance, the squat cylinder R2-D2 is at most only humanoid in behavior.
In the movie A.I., the robotic characters are called mechas, but the film is loosely based on a short story written by Brian Aldiss called "Supertoys Last All Summer Long", in which the central character David is called an android (by which Aldiss seemed to be referring to an organic creation).
In the anime/manga Chobits, Androids are known as "Persocoms", essentially computers in a man-made body. The series does not go into their internal composition, but it is assumed to be artificial with a very realistic outside. One of the key points of this series was a special type of persocom named "Chobit", a persocom that had free will and the ability to fall in love and have emotions.
The android BEJ(Bio Electric Jerk) is a character in the comic series Jack O Lantern Productions. Unlike many androids who usually talk politely,he has an eccentric attitude and refers to humans as "stupid apes".
The Cylon race in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series includes twelve android models that are virtually indistinguishable from human beings down to the cellular level, however subcellularly (molecularly) they are different in many ways, and as such have superhuman capacities, but lack the ability to functionally reproduce with each other.
The character Kryten from the television show Red Dwarf is described as being a "Mechanoid" as well as an android. This is a melding of the words "Mechanical" and "Humanoid". According to the episode "DNA", his brain is part-organic, and his DNA can therefore be altered. He is also capable of breaking his programming and obtaining emotions, though this proves to be difficult as displayed in the episode, "Camille".

Androids in fiction

  • The first android in film appeared in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, in which a robot is created in the image of the revolutionary leader Maria.
  • One of the earliest android characters is Otho from the Captain Future stories of Edmond Hamilton. Otho's construction is never discussed but he is much more human-like than his companion Grag, a mechanical robot.
  • The creature in Mary Shelly's classic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is essentially a robot made from protein-based parts. The creature is animated by a young student who flees from his own creation. He soon begins to learn like a child, and soon he becomes intelligent and seeks revenge on his reluctant 'Father'.
  • Isaac Asimov's robot stories are mostly about androids; many are collected in I, Robot (1950). They promulgated a set of rules of ethics for androids and robots (see Three Laws of Robotics) that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject. Most of Asimov's robots appear too artificial to be mistaken for human beings, with the notable exceptions of R. Jander Panell, R. Daneel Olivaw, Andrew Martin, and Dors Venabili, who is the wife of human mathematician Hari Seldon, a major character in the Foundation series.
  • In the original Star Trek series, the episode What Are Little Girls Made Of? (1966) introduced the concept of android to perhaps the widest audience to that point in time. Guest characters originally presented as human were, one by one, revealed in actuality to be androids, built from technology from an ancient alien civilization, now in ruins. The episode took the android concept one step further by revealing that the main antagonist, Dr. Korby, was in fact dead but had transferred his consciousness into an android duplicate of his body, thereby gaining something akin to immortality. Also, an android duplicate of Captain James T. Kirk was constructed during the episode, one of many times that a Kirk-double appeared in the Star Trek television and movie series.
  • A particularly famous android is Data, played by actor Brent Spiner, of the series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994); this character was largely inspired by another android character created by Gene Roddenberry for The Questor Tapes. Data's immediate 'family' — brother Lore, his daughter Lal and 'mother' Dr. Juliana Tainer — were also androids (and the fembots are properly, though rarely, referred to as gynoids) from the same creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. Data has a positronic brain, a fictional robotic device conceived by Isaac Asimov, that provides him with a very high approximation of human sentience, and exhibits a very strong desire to be human, and to understand humanity. He is shown as extremely endearing and curious, despite the fact that he lacks the ability to feel emotions or understand human idiosyncrasies, and is constantly trying to copy various forms of human behavior, most notably comedy.
  • In CLAMP's seinen anime/manga series, Chobits, Chii, an android known as a "persocom", is noted to have special abilities that of the 'Chobits' series of persocoms, having real feelings and acting human in every way. She eventually falls in love with her owner, Hideki, who found her in the trash, demonstrating her strong, human-like feelings.
  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), the Ilia probe — a precisely duplicated biomechanical replica of Lieutenant Ilia, with some of her emotions intact — was dispatched by V'ger to gather information about the crew of the starship Enterprise.
  • In the TV series Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (2000–2005), the gynoid Rommie is an extension of the starship's AI operating system, represented by an avatar of Rommie.
  • Androids (Jinzou Ningen in Japanese; meaning 'artificial human') are also a race in Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT. The androids' names were only numbers (such as Android #18 or Android #20). They were created by Dr. Gero, Dr. Muu, and the Red Ribbon Army. Some are entirely artificial and some are created from humans and can be considered cyborgs.
  • Jinzo Ningen Kikaider was the first manga and tokusatsu series to feature an android protagonist.
  • The series Xenosaga borrows Villiers' original term Realian when referring to a race of beings created by Vector Corporation. Two playable characters are androids (MOMO and KOS-MOS). One is referred to as a Realian while the second is simply an android, the difference being that Realians, while also artificial, are at least mostly organic in composition.
  • In their respective series by Capcom, Mega Man was initially called a "humanoid", which was then simplified to robot. X, a later version, is said to be more advanced, more independent of thought, and closer to an android. Other beings, based on his design, are called Reploids.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf", with deadly versions of 20th-century gameshows, there is an android host of The Weakest Link called the "Anne Droid" (a pun on the name of Anne Robinson, the current host). The series had previously featured androids in the more conventional sense — that is robotic duplicates of real people — in The Chase (a Dalek-made murderous robot double of the First Doctor), Four to Doomsday, Timelash (though the androids are deliberately distinguishable by having blue skin), The Caves of Androzani, in which Sharaz Jek creates android replicas of the Fifth Doctor and Peri Brown and most notably The Android Invasion, in which among the deadly robot creations was a copy of Sarah Jane Smith that failed to fool the Doctor. See also Autons and Kamelion.
  • At least one episode of Blake's 7 revolves round a deadly robot duplicate.
  • General Morden creates mechanical duplicates of himself and resurrects his henchman Allen O'niel as an android. defeat doesn't mean their end. The mechanical duplicates drag themselves toward the player, self-destruct, and leave their heads behind where they become land mines.
  • In the game Shadow the Hedgehog Dr. Eggman creates an army of androids that resemble Shadow the hedgehog called, "Shadow androids". Due to their exact resemblance Shadow begins to fear he too is an android.
  • In the show Small Wonder (TV series) Vicki Lawson who is also known as V.I.C.I. short for Voice Input Child Identicant is an android built by Ted Lawson he and his family passes her off as their daughter and sister.
  • Kim Fox is a sentient female android (or gynoid) who features in the work of Richard Evans (British author). His futursitic thrillers, Machine Nation and Robophobia examine machine emotions and the consequences of human-android relationships. Other gynoids and androids appear in his short stories, Touch Sensitive and Hand In Glove.
  • The entire Phantasy Star video game series prominently features androids as main characters and plot elements.
  • In Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, Mackenzie "Mack" Hartford is Andrew Hartford's son and the first ever Power Ranger that is an android.
  • Krang from the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon uses a robotic android body, which looks much like a human body in appearance. Any artificial intelligence is, however, never seen. Krang sits inside the robot, controlling it. In the episode The Turtle Terminator of the same series, Shredder uses an android robot that look likes Irma in an attempt of destroying the turtles.
  • In the short film Android 207 an artificially intelligent humanoid machine must navigate its way through a complex maze filled with physical and psychological challenges.

Bio androids in fiction

In fiction, one prominent android variation is the Bio android, which is constructed of protein based components as opposed to electronic and mechanical parts. Bio androids are all composed of synthetic flesh, though their exact composition varies from work to work. Biorobotics or synthetic biology are among the terms used to describe how they are made.
  • The New Race in the novel series Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, where Victor Frankenstein has built an army of synthetic humans that are supposed to replace the original humans called "the Old Race", which he considers to be too much of a failure.
  • Cell in the anime series, Dragon Ball Z, is created using the DNA of several powerful fighters and grown in a lab by Doctor Gero, who also built several other highly advanced, but more traditional androids. Cell's status as a bio android is both questionable and unique as he is grown like a clone rather than built.
  • Melfina in the anime series, Outlaw Star, is a bio android built using synthetic flesh and the knowledge from an extinct civilization. Her primary purpose is to be both the navigation system to find and the key to activate the Galactic Leyline, the finding of which is the ultimate goal of the protagonists. However, she displays other traits which align her more closely with other organic beings.
  • The title character in the anime, Armitage III is an android comprising of both mechanical and cybernetic components. It is revealed that she, as well as the other similar androids can even reproduce with humans. In this same movie a 4th type is developed which is completely organic.
  • The humanoid Cylons in the Sci-Fi Channel remake series of Battlestar Galactica are built using organic components so that they appear to be identical to humans, even when an autopsy is performed. However, they all share an almost telepathic bond and are mass produced in specific body types. In addition, their minds are transmitted back to their bases upon destruction of their bodies so that they can be reborn. At least two Cylons so far have produced hybrid children with human beings.
  • In the anime Casshan Robot Hunter, the Nidroids are cybernetic organisms designed to live in symbiosis with nature. They later replace traditional androids and robots as the main enemies of mankind.
  • In the pornographic anime Buttobi CPU, the main character Akira is tricked into buying Mimi/Pixie, a bio android girl, in place of a computer.
  • In the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Evas are a combination of cybernetic and biological parts cloned from extraterrestrial beings, and could therefore be considered either cyborgs or bio androids, depending on strictness of definition. They are effectively bio androids in the form of a mech-suits. In addition, the character Rei Ayanami is revealed to be one of many bio androids based on the same technology as the Evas.
  • In the manga and anime Appleseed, there is an entire population of bio androids who look after humans. They have to switch into new bodies, in the remade anime receive "life extension treatments", every so often because they lack cellular division, a fact that also prevents them from reproducing. In the end, however, the factory that assembles their new bodies is destroyed, and they are given the ability to reproduce and thus remain in one body.
  • In the anime series, Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig, Proto was one of the men who worked on the Tachikoma. Near the end of the series, when Proto's brain is fried while he attempts to hack into a government network, it is revealed that he is in fact a bio android prototype.
  • The replicants in the movie Blade Runner, where a small handful of escaped replicants are being hunted by specialist police units called "blade runners".
  • The Realians in the Xenosaga game series could be considered bio-androids, though there exist both carbon-based and metallic variations.
Many more examples may be found in this list of fictional robots.



  1. Kerman, Judith B. (1991). Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. ISBN 0-87972-509-5
  2. Shelde, Per (1993). Androids, Humanoids, and Other Science Fiction Monsters: Science and Soul in Science Fiction Films. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-7930-1
  3. Sidney Perkowitz (2004) Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids. Joseph Henry Press. ISBN 0-309-09619-7

Further reading

android in Min Nan: Ki-khì-lâng
android in Bosnian: Android
android in Bulgarian: Андроид
android in Czech: Android
android in German: Android
android in Estonian: Android
android in Spanish: Androide
android in French: Androïde
android in Galician: Androide
android in Croatian: Android
android in Indonesian: Android
android in Italian: Androide
android in Hebrew: אנדרואיד
android in Dutch: Androïde
android in Japanese: 人造人間
android in Norwegian: Androide
android in Polish: Android
android in Portuguese: Andróide
android in Russian: Андроид
android in Slovak: Android
android in Serbian: Андроид
android in Finnish: Androidi
android in Swedish: Android
android in Thai: แอนดรอยด์
android in Turkish: Android
android in Ukrainian: Андроїд
android in Chinese: 仿生人
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